On the 24th April 2020 well into the #Lockdown, looking back at Dec'2019, the best decision I made was to go ahead with my planned trip to the pink city, in spite of having many reasons to cancel it !!
The period was also one of transition for me, bang in between 2 jobs, and my new job to start on 19th of Dec, which was later revised to 23rd !
It also turned out to be one of the most memorable short trips for my wife and me.
We left on the 14th Dec for Jaipur by train, Jaipur Superfast express.
We reached JAIPUR the following day, getting down at what we found to be a very nice, clean and well maintained Jaipur station. Took an auto from the station to our hotel, Park Inn, which is pretty close to the station in Bani Park area.
Checked in to the hotel, Park Inn. The hotel was very much as we had expected based on the research on various travel apps and websites - Nice, clean, 3 star standard hotel with nice rooms, superb food, courteous staff.
The day we reached, we had planned to rest and explore the area around the hotel. Instead, we ended up seeing 3 major attractions on the same day ! This actually turned out to be the highlight of this trip.. unplanned and hence full of surprises at every turn ! First up was the venerable Jantar Mantar. We bought the composite entry ticket, which is a common entry ticket valid for 2 days for many forts and attractions in and around Jaipur, including Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, Nahargarh fort, Albert Hall museum etc.
Built by the erstwhile king of Jaipur Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, in Jaipur as well as Delhi, the Jantar Mantar complex boasts of yantras to map dates, times, seasons, positions of the sun moon and stars, Grahadasha, etc. Truely a wonder and something to be proud of.. Do hire a guide, especially if you are visiting for the first time, to make sense of all the wonders in the Jantar Mantar, otherwise you'll end up just wandering around aimlessly and clicking photos, without knowing about the wonderful stuff there. This will come back to haunt you when some friends ask you about Jantar Mantar when you get back home !! We explored Jantar Mantar for about an hour. Then headed for the monument next door, which is the beautiful City Palace.
The Jaipur City Palace is truely majestic, oozing royalty and full of the life of the royal family in every nook and corner. Hiring a guide there too is optional, but advisable, again to avoid roaming around aimlessly. The place is full of splendid places for photo ops. It also has a small cafe which serves snacks and beverages. We had some snacks (not so good) and tea/coffee (good). The ambience of the cafe though is very good, you can sit around gazing at the Palace and just watch the world passing by in this historic place. We were lucky to be there around sunset, when the lights come on. What a sight it is in lights !! We just sat looking at the lit up Sabha Niwas (Diwan e Aam) for 5 minutes !!
After city palace, we had planned to head back to the hotel. This was around the time we started to get a real feel of a Jaipur Winter, with night temperatures dropping to almost 5 degrees and days at a cold (by Mumbai standards) 15-18 degrees... Some auto drivers outside the palace offered to take us to Lake palace and some other places, and told us its not to far. So we decided to go with the flow .. First up our auto driver (by the name Ramzan) took us to Jal Mahal or lake palace.
Lake Palace by night has an amazing vibe. The palace is in the middle of the Man Sagar lake, surrounded by hills, and was supposed to be a summer retreat of the royal family. The palace itself is submerged 4 storeys under the water when the lake is full, with the top storeys serving as living area complete with a garden. The submerged palace ensured cool temperatures throughout the unforgiving summer. Currently tourists are not allowed inside the palace. We can enjoy the views of the palace from the promenade, though the area is highly commercialized and crowded.
From Jal Mahal, we went to the Brahm Ram Mandir. Though getting to the temple requires climbing some stairs, it is worth the effort. A nice and quiet temple having glass filled walls and ceiling, and rare Brahm Ram ji as its main diety, the temple also has a Hanuman temple below, along with many other dieties. Felt truely blessed. From there we headed to Jaipur's most well known icon, the Hawa Mahal.
We reached Hawa Mahal post its closing time, so could not explore it competely. So we just hung around the precinct, taking photographs and just taking in the splendour of the palace. Hawa Mahal was supposed to be the viewing gallery of the queens who were supposed to be under the purdah at all times. They would view the royal processions from the various "Jharokhas" or windows.
We called it a day and headed back to our hotel. The weather by now was almost freezing at 5-6 degrees, and we could barely make the return journey by auto ! So we decided to buy the missing pieces of winter clothing the next day i.e. gloves and monkey caps !
The third day we decided to explore the forts around Jaipur i.e. Nahargarh fort, Amer fort (along with the light and sound show at Amer fort) and any other attractions on the way. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel (a very nice and vast breakfast spread the hotel served), we headed for the Jaigarh fort. We hired the service of an auto driver for the entire day. You can book a car for the entire day as well, which will cost around 2100 for a day with fixed kilometres. We took an auto at a fixed lower cost for the same number of places. The advantage of taking an auto is that you do not need to pay for parking at every place.
Jaigarh fort is en route to Nahargarh fort, a small detour on the ghat, around 5 Kms from Jaipur. Note that entry to this fort is not included in the composite ticket. Overlooking the Amer fort on the Aravallis, Jaigarh fort is a well fortified fort and connected with Amer via subterranean passages. It also features a very large cannon built within the premises and fired only once in its lifetime ! The fort offers panoramic views of the surroundings from various parts, situated as it is on one of the peaks of the Aravallis. Is also has a large underground rainwater storage facility, in the form of a stepwell, which is in fact seen in and around many forts.
Next up was Nahargarh fort. 6 Kms from the city of Jaipur, the fort is situated higher that the Jaigarh fort. It was built as a retreat palace for the royal family. The fort is a vast precinct and has many food options, has a wax museum and a sheesh mahal (which are chargeable seperately). There is a stepwell inside the premises. We had lunch at a small open air cafe within the premises, with many food and beverage options. The main portion for public has a courtyard and one can climb up to the upper side, which offers panoramic views of the city. After hanging out at the palace for about an hour, we headed for our next stop, the Amer fort, also called Amber fort.
12 Kms from Nahargarh fort and 11 Kms from Jaipur city, the Amer fort is situated in the town of Amer. The fort has a lot of mughal influence on its architecture. Our auto left us at the base of the fort, from where we can either climb up by steps, or take vehicles to the top. Enroute to the fort by road is an old stepwell, called Panna Meena ka kund.
We spent some 5 minutes exploring the place, a nice and typical rainwater storage facility from "Ancient" India !! Sure we have become modern, but are missing the solutions to today's problems from our ancestors !! Reached the main gate of Amer fort. The fort has many courtyards, rooms, gates and is almost like a maze in the inner courtyards. One can explore the fort for hours. We had planned to watch the light and sound show which was around 7.30 pm, and so we reached the fort at around 6, explored the fort and then headed for the show.
The show is viewed from a viewing gallery built in the middle of a lake at the bottom of the Amer fort hill, offering a panoramic view of the facade of the fort. There are 2 shows of an hour each, the first one in English and the second in Hindi. The show itself comprises projection of lights on the fort facade, along with the narration of the history of the Amer fort, must watch if you go to Amer.
End of a day well spent with the history and heritage of Rajasthan and India, we head back to our abode in Jaipur, but not before having dinner en route.
Day 4 starts again with a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel. First up, we head to the Albert hall museum.
The museum is a nice colonial structure with a large collection of artefacts of the royal family of Jaipur and also some ancient articles. Took us almost 2 hours to explore, still wasn't enough but we were on a schedule so had to speed up ! The museum premises are also very beautiful, with vast lawns surrounding the building.
From the museum, we headed for an elephant ride at a place near lake palace, recommended by our Auto driver. The place is simple, with 2-3 elephants maintained in a shed. We took photographs with the elephants there, took an elephant joyride for 15 minutes. Lot of fun ! From here, we went to Bapu bazaar for shopping
Bapu bazaar is an old market in Jaipur lined with shops selling clothes, jewellery, antiques, artifacts and at pretty reasonable rates. Perfect place for bargain hunters and good stuff.
Back to hotel.
We woke up on our last day of this memorable trip, not much to do as we had to catch a train at around 1.30 pm. Had our breakfast late, packed up, checked out of the hotel (which felt like leaving our home of 4 days !) and headed to the station. End of our memorable trip to the pink city, and wishing to come back many more times to check out the remaining attractions, and to spend more time in the already seen places !!